From Publishers Weekly
So enduring is the reputation of Marie Curie that more than 100 years after she won her first Nobel Prize, for physics in 1903 (she won a second, for chemistry, in 1911), Curie (1867–1934) is still regarded by most as the pre-eminent woman scientist of the 20th century. Goldsmith's straightforward biography illuminates both the public Curie, a tireless scientist obsessed with work, and the private one, a woman who suffered bouts of severe depression, was distant from her children and scarred deeply by the accidental death of her scientist husband, Pierre, in 1906. Using long-sealed Curie family archives, Goldsmith offers a well-rounded view of her subject that makes good dramatic use of the considerable intrigue that surrounded Curie's scientific accomplishments and her private life. Goldsmith also reminds us, without belaboring the point, that Curie overcame obstacles, including pervasive sexism within the scientific community that almost cost her the Nobel. Goldsmith is also adept at demonstrating that for Curie the nexus of public accomplishments and private happiness was tenuous. Although Curie continued working after Pierre's death, Goldsmith says she never allowed his name to be spoken: "Never again would there be a sign of joy." Goldsmith, biographer of Gloria Vanderbilt and Victoria Woodhull, is weakest at explaining the theoretical basis for Curie's scientific breakthroughs, which set the stage for the exploration of the atom. B&w illus.
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Best-selling historian Goldsmith incisively chronicles the intensely dramatic life of the first woman scientist to win the Nobel Prize, neatly explicating both scientific breakthroughs and complex personal and societal conflicts. Curie, born Marya Salomee Sklodowska, endured and triumphed over a tough childhood in Russian-occupied Poland as well as depression, sexism, and poverty. A brilliant and profoundly committed scientist who achieved many firsts, she found her soul mate in fellow scientist and maverick Pierre Curie, who helped her conduct the grueling experiments that enabled her to discover polonium, radium, and radioactivity, thus throwing "open the door to atomic science." A humanist who hoped that radiation would only be used for good, Marie Curie also invented a mobile X-ray unit that her courageous scientist daughter, Irene Joliot-Curie, who also won a Nobel Prize, operated on the front lines. Marie, Pierre, and Irene were all made fatally ill by their work with radioactive substances, and decades later, the Curie papers that Goldsmith has made such superb use of were still "hot." Marie Curie's life, Goldsmith concludes, was "tragic and glorious." Her powerful portrait reveals a woman of great passion, genius, and pain who changed the world in ways she would have deplored. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved